Silent Movie (1976)
Plot: Aspiring filmmakers Mel Funn, Marty Eggs, and Dom Bell go to a financially troubled studio with an idea for a silent movie. In an effort to make the movie more marketable, they attempt to recruit a number of big-name stars to appear, while the studio’s creditors attempt to thwart them.
Review: Mel Funn (Mel Brooks) was once regarded as Hollywood’s greatest director, till drinking destroyed his career. Now, fully intent on making a comeback he pitches a script for a ‘SILENT MOVIE’ to Big Pictures Studios. The Studio Chief (Sid Caesar) hanging under the looming stress of a big conglomerate trying to orchestrate a takeover of the studio agrees to make the movie if Funn can rope in some of the biggest Hollywood stars for the project. Funn along with his associates Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise) and Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) set out on an adventure to secure any big stars they can get to star in their movie while the evil conglomerate tries to stop them from succeeding.
This is the first time Mel Brooks starred as a lead in a film that he himself directed. Although even with technically Brooks being the lead, it does feel very much like an ensemble. But Brooks is great as Funn, exuding an endearing quality that makes you want to root for him to succeed in his endeavor. The character of Bell played by DeLuise is shown as someone who is always either hungry or thirsty. In almost all of his scenes, he is either eating or drinking something. This is a problem because DeLuise is given absolutely nothing else to do making me question his and this character’s inclusion in the movie. I did love Feldman as Eggs who describes himself as a mild-mannered pervert. Feldman is great at physical comedy with his mannerisms and expressions eliciting laughter almost all the time.
Sid Caesar as the Studio Chief, Harold Gould and Ron Carey as the two heads of the conglomerate, and Bernadette Peters as Funn’s love interest all shine bright in their supporting roles. Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft, and Paul Newman all pop up as exaggerated versions of themselves and they have a lot of fun with it.
Imitating the silent films era the dialogues are presented on a title card with there being no spoken dialogue. There is however one word spoken in the entirety of the film by a very surprising individual. The score by John Morris and the sound effects are utilized and amalgamated with the visuals in such a creative manner that they effectively elevate the comedy.
Being a ‘silent’ slapstick comedy the screenplay by Mel Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy DeLuca, and Barry Levinson comprise of just back-to-back sketches so as to incorporate as many visual gags as they can into it. There are a few random sketches and gags which are not really related to the story and almost all of them are quite weak and seemingly pointless. The scathing satire here regarding the Hollywood film industry is too on the nose but that’s the point as Brooks under the guise of slapstick comedy uses exaggeration to hammer home the point.
Brooks uses the kitchen-sink approach here to evoke laughs and it works for the majority part only because of his immense prowess as a director of comedy. Silent Movie is a very loving parody of the silent films era. Also, it is just a lot of fun.
My Rating: 8/10